Re: Moral rights in corrigenda

From: Stevan Harnad <>
Date: Sat, 23 Feb 2002 17:37:45 +0000

On Sat, 23 Feb 2002, Chris Zielinski wrote:

> I have seen papers strengthened
> so considerably by the review and editorial process that the author's
> original is virtually useless compared with the final version. Much of
> the intervening work is not legally the author's: to claim it would be
> to expose yourself to litigation, while to ignore it could render your
> work useless for scientific communication. A rock and a hard place.

The "work" that is indisputably the author's is the final revised text.

(No one denies that the referees have put some work into it, for free;
and possibly editors have too, for a salary or fee. But it would be
absurd to suggest that the resulting final "work," the text, is not
100% the author's own! Otherwise, the referees and editors would need
to have a co-authorship, with a shared moral right in a shared
intellectual property. Something that is patently not the case with the
revised final draft of a peer-reviewed journal paper.)

So I repeat, Chris's a priori worries about the moral or legal right of
an author to list the corrigenda that distinguish his (sic) final refereed
draft from his pre-refereeing preprint are without any basis whatsoever
in law, or in fact, or in practise.

> Third point "If a copy editor has corrected your grammar and you are
> worried about copyright, leave that correction out of your corrigenda":
> a) I'm not worried about copyright, but rather moral rights; b) all this
> picking and choosing about what to leave in and what to leave out is
> precisely the exasperating "nitpicking" that your unworkable strategy
> would demand.

And alas a complete waste of time, in my oponion.

> Fourth point: "don't worry about the corrections from the referees: they
> weren't paid for, and they won't sue you!" We are talking about moral
> rights: being paid has nothing to do with it. When referees are
> responding to a request from a journal editor, the tradition is
> anonymity and an implied waiver of moral rights. But if an author were
> to claim moral rights in respect of a significant contribution from a
> referee, clearly distinguished and listed in a set of corrigenda, the
> referee may well raise a hand or dispute the claim. If the concern for
> making fraudulent claims of moral rights is shared by the author, and as
> a result the referee-proposed corrigendum is not included, the
> self-archived paper would end up being impoverished.

The only "claim" being made in a list of corrigenda is what the author
says at the top: "The reader may wish to make the following changes in
order to make my (sic) preprint conform to my (sic) refereed, revised
final draft...."

The same referee who will not claim "moral rights" over the changes he
has recommended as they appear in the author's (sic) final published
draft will, for the very same reasons, not claim "moral rights" over
the changes as they appear in an author's list of corrigenda.

Chris, you are worrying, needlessly, about nothing.

It is conceivable that such bits of piece-wise moral rights can be and
are asserted and protected in collaborative works for hire. But not in
refereed research papers.

Stevan Harnad
Received on Sat Feb 23 2002 - 17:38:01 GMT

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